Money … everywhere

I’ve noticed something interesting happening to me in Russia. Whenever I am outside I always find money on the ground. It’s not a lot of money — kopeks mostly (something like cents) — but I still find quite a few of them. Whenever I am outside of Russia, be it in the US or Europe or anywhere else, I am usually not that lucky. So what is it that makes money litter the ground in Russia?

I am thinking it has to do with an attitude that many Russians hold on small amounts of money. When you go to a supermarket, you will almost always find a kopek coin or a five kopek coin unclaimed at any cashier station. It’s as if picking up that little change isn’t worth it. Picking it up places shame on you for being so “mercantile”, so “small”. It makes you feel small and it’s shameful in the eyes of the others.

Same goes for the money on the ground. If you dropped a kopek or five, you won’t be bending down to get it. And if you a pedestrian who notices this change on the ground, you are not going to take it. Others may see it and then what would they think of you!

These beliefs about small money and how your own worthiness is connected with it translates into other facets of the Russian life and society. Nowadays you are often judged on how much money you make, what position you hold, and how many designer clothes and expensive cars you own. You can buy your degree, you can buy a judge, you can buy pretty much anything. People with lots of money rule the country and the last thing you want to do is to appear as if you don’t have money… which is what will happen if you pick up that kopek!

So I happily go around picking up all the change. I believe money should not litter the ground. It should be respected no matter how small it is… kind of like people who should be respected no matter how much they make.

My 2 cents … or kopeks worth…

8 responses to “Money … everywhere

  1. buildingthelifeyouwant

    I saw your tweet and thought I’d check out your new blog – welcome to wordpress! I’m sure you’ll find a comfortable home here. Looking forward to more of your comparisons and writings. All the best, Dee

  2. I do not know about money lying around on the streets in Russia, but I noticed this in the U.S. Every day I found coins on sidewalks, on shop floors, etc.
    I had to ask one my friends in the U.S. and she explained it the same way you did in your post. People would not bend down for a penny or a nickel or a dime. Well, I do. This is a reflection of how money is valued – whether taking out too much credit or spending money frivolously.

  3. I loved your post! I am an expat in Russia at the moment and it’s soooo true! I was surprised by it at first because I once saw a girl in the supermarket whose coin purse accidentally opened and showered down a bunch of coins (not just kopecks but also rubles). She just tossed her head and walked out. I’d always questioned why they did this but never really reached a real conclusion. I think you’re right though, the new Russia is very different. In the past this probably never would have happened. Thanks for the insight! I can’t wait to read more!

  4. globalcoachcenter

    Hi Joanne – a fellow expat in Russia! Great! Where in Russia are you?

  5. Pingback: Different colors of money « “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” What was your expatriate experience like?

  6. I suspect it has more to do with the areas/shops that expats inhabit (Moscow and St Pete’s). Life and money in the provinces is much more valued

  7. Here in Canada a lot of stores have a small pot next to the cash register where people will put a cent if they receive one in change. When you purchase something and you need a cent but don’t have one (eg the price is $5.01) then you can take one from the pot.

  8. Pingback: Celebrating Birthdays Abroad « “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” What was your expatriate experience like?

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